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County balances budget amid gloomy outlook

by Larry Patrick
WALSENBURG — The Huerfano County Commissioners were able to take monies from several funds to offset a $295,000 shortfall to balance the 2013 budget, but warned the county will be facing a half-million dollar deficit for 2014 which could see severe cuts and possible layoffs.
Chairman Scott King said “Our obligation is to balance the budget and spend the money wisely.” King and Commissioner Roger Cain are term limited and leave office in January.
There are no salary increases for 2013 but the commissioners said they have absorbed the 9% increase in health insurance costs which they consider to be a benefit to all employees. Currently, county employees pay $50 per month with the average per employee health care costs being about $14,000 a year to the county. The 9% increase in health care costs amounted to about $170,000 for the coming year’s budget.
Art Bobian said Huerfano County is solvent for next year but needs more jobs, industry and taxes in the years ahead to keep it that way. To balance the general fund the county transferred $700,000 from the PILT (payment in lieu of taxes) fund along with the mineral and social services funds. The $400,000 from PILT was the largest transfer, but Bobian cautions the fund will not have that kind of cash available for 2014 when they expect a $500,000 shortfall. Bobian and the two new commissioners will have to deal with those problems this time next year.
The commissioners thanked officials in the various departments for holding the line on expenses.

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